The namesake of Wilson is the kind of guy people try to avoid on the bus, at the sidewalk cafe, or while using the adjacent urinal. Yet the makers of this deadpan comedy want us to spend 90 minutes with him.
The experience isn't painful, but it is a little frustrating. Playing the reclusive, misanthropic, yet oddly gregarious title character, Woody Harrelson is as engaging as the man's personality allows. But Wilson struggles with tone, shifting from monotonously bleak to predictably satirical to improbably sanguine.
The movie was adapted from a graphic novel by Daniel Clowes, and offers another take on the premise of Ghost World, the best of the three films derived from his work: A disaffected middle-aged man bonds with an alienated teenage girl. But this time the story takes the viewpoint of the man, who lacks the winning adolescent sass of Ghost World's Enid and her pal, Rebecca. (The other1 film based on Clowes comic was 2006's Art School Confidential.)
Wilson is a lonely guy who's about to get lonelier: His dad is dying and his best friend is moving to St. Louis. (Wilson's tattered, semi-urban habitat is not identified, but the comic is set in Oakland, where Clowes lives.) Wilson will be left with just his adorable terrier, so he makes some tentative attempts to broaden his social circle. He fails, but in the process is introduced to something he's been carefully avoiding: the Internet.